From Cask To Glass, We Learned How Macallan Crafts Its $150-A-Bottle Whisky At An Event In New York City


Photo: Vivian Giang / Business Insider

Whiskey is a booming market in the U.S., and it’s one that Scotland’s Macallan has been eyeing for a few years now.Twice a year, Macallan’s attractive crew travels to 11 major U.S. cities to share the brand’s story while attendees sip on the spirit’s 10-, 12-, 15-, 17- and 18-year-old single malts.

We stopped by the latest event at a cool warehouse in SoHo, and had the opportunity to speak with Charlie Whitfield, the brand ambassador who hosted the event.

“Basically, my job is to try and educate consumers, to give people the information that helps them understand scotch whisky,” Whitfield told us. “I find that when people understand what they’re drinking, it really helps them enjoy it as well. They’re enjoying whisky, it makes me happy and it makes them happy.” 

He explains why Macallan, which retails for around $150 for the 18-year bottle, is better than its competition:

“Our rich, full-bodied flavour is what sets us apart from our competitors and that complex flavour is mainly due to the exceptional oak casks we use to age our whisky. We spend upwards of $20 million a year on our casks alone —more than all our main competitors put together. “

And given whisky’s rise as an alternative investment, Macallan’s tour is happening at a critical time. 

Jason Kephart in InvestmentNews reports that whisky can now be seriously considered as an investment. According to the Whisky Highland Index, an online whiskey valuation library, buyers who purchased collectible bottles of the spirit in 2008 for around $66,929 at auctions are able to sell them today for $149,395, a 121 per cent gain.

It was a full house, filled with people from all different fields of work, from bankers to film makers to students.

The crowd listened as brand ambassador Charlie Whitfield takes the stage and shares the spirit's 188-year history. In 2010, Macallan broke the record for most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction, with a 64-year-old bottle going for $460,000.

These were our lovely hosts for the evening.

After sharing Macallan's history with the crowd, Whitfield explained that the best way to drink scotch whisky on the rocks is with a sphere of ice—which he says has the perfect melting properties.

Whereas most Scotch distilleries currently use ex-bourbon casks—costing around $80 a cask— Macallan's sherry casks cost $1,000 per cask to make, Whitfield said.

Macallan's casks are made from oak from a sustainable forest that has been air dried for 2 to 3 years. They're then seasoned with Dry Oloroso Sherry wine for another two years, meaning a tree cut today in northern Spain will be ready to fill with whisky in 74 months.

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